Mehmet II, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire

Mehmet II, called the Conqueror, b. Mar. 30, 1432, d. May 3, 1481, sultan of the OTTOMAN EMPIRE (1444-46, 1451-81), extended Ottoman control of southeastern Europe to the Danube and of Anatolia to the Euphrates. His father, MURAT II, tried to abdicate when Mehmet was only 12 years old, but in the wake of the son's unsuccessful first reign, the father returned to power. When the more mature Mehmet ascended the throne once more (after Murat's death), he tried to create a world empire like that of the Romans. He first conquered Byzantine Constantinople in 1453 and rebuilt it into the prosperous Ottoman capital of Istanbul. To counter the power of the Turkish aristocracy, Mehmet continued his father's policy of expanding the Janissary infantry corps. These JANISSARIES were made up of young Christians, recruited through the devshirme system, who were given salaries rather than fiefdoms to keep them loyal to and dependent on the sultan. Mehmet authorized autonomous religious communities to give his subjects religious freedom and gain the support of their religious leaders. Equitable tax and administrative systems were created, and justice for all was emphasized.

Mehmet subsequently conquered Serbia in 1459 and the Morea by 1460, extending the empire in Europe to the Danube and the Aegean despite resistance from Albania and Venice, with which he warred between 1463 and 1479. By 1461 he had conquered Anatolia as far as the Euphrates from the Turkmen principalities, but Mehmed failed to push further due to resistance from the MAMELUKES of Syria as well as from the White Sheep Turkmen of Iran. He just was beginning new campaigns to capture Rhodes and southern Italy when he died suddenly in 1481. Mehmet was succeeded by his son, BAYEZID II.